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Campus Police charge former MIT student in computer theft case

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for April 22 for a member of the Class of 2002 charged with receiving stolen property in connection with the theft of a computer from the Department of Chemistry in Building 18.

Mark L. Strauss, 23, of Mesa, Ariz., was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on March 21 and released on personal recognizance. The chemical engineering major was arrested the previous day. He was not registered for the spring semester.

After arresting Strauss, MIT Police obtained a search warrant for his room in the Zeta Psi fraternity on Massachusetts Avenue and seized $30,000-$40,000 worth of computers and computer equipment.

Detective John Peterson said that several buildings on campus had experienced a number of computer thefts in recent months. He said buildings 18 had 34 reported larcenies in the past year.

MIT Police Chief John DiFava said the investigation was launched on March 15. While a police officer was in Building 18 taking a report on a stolen computer, a chemistry graduate student browsed eBay and noted that a similar computer was being offered for sale.

Police contacted Strauss via e-mail and obtained his phone number. Officer Mark Kelleher spoke with him by phone several times and a deal was struck. The computer's value was estimated at about $400.

Police said Strauss agreed to deliver the property for inspection to Massachusetts Avenue near Landsdowne Street, near the fraternity house on March 20 at about 1 p.m. He was met by Kelleher, in plain clothes, who ascertained it was the missing computer. Kelleher signaled to Peterson, Lt. Michael Assad and Officers Robert Molino and Orlando Tirella, who responded immediately. Strauss was arrested by Molino.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 3, 2002.

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